Please attack and scrutinize this i7 build for science

Hi - I'm planning the following i7 build. I've already spent $300 on case, monitor and hard drive, and I'm trying to keep the remaining parts under $1000.

CPU: i7 920 (praying for a D0 from Newegg) - $289
Motherboard: ASUS P6T LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX -$240
RAM: G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 - $150
Graphics card: GIGABYTE GV-N26SO-896I GeForce GTX 260 896MB - $205
DVD: Sony Optiarc Black 24X DVD OEM - $30
Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W - $110
Case: Antec 300 Illusion (already have)
HD: Samsung F3 SpinPoint (already have)

Price: $969.06 for these parts from Newegg after rebates and shipping

Goals with computer: running BOINC (World community grid) on CPU, F@H/other GPU capable grid projects on GPU, running CPU intensive scientific simulation programs written in C (matrix diagonalization, Monte Carlo integration, solving differential equations), watching movies and doing office work. I will not be playing any games.

Will I overclock?: Yes, as much as I can for safe 24/7 operation

Do I plan to upgrade?: Yes, I will add 6GB RAM and another NVIDIA card for SLI in next 2 years

Things I'm essentially certain about: CPU, DVD drive, power supply

Questions:

Motherboard? The ultimate question. I just need a safe, straightforward board I can overclock the i7 with.
Graphics card? I'm going to eventually try SLI. Would a GeForce GTS 250 be a good idea for now (save me $70 now) instead of the more expensive GTX 260? The GTS 250 is tempting.
(I need an NVIDIA card to use CUDA)

Apology: I know my build is standard. The reason I'm asking these questions is because I have slightly different needs than many other Toms hardware users: I don't need to play the latest games, I just need CPU and GPU strength to run programs like BOINC and small C++ applications.

Thank you.
17 answers Last reply
More about please attack scrutinize build science
  1. Do any of your programs use CUDA? If yes, your GPU is fine. If not, dump it and use a smaller one. I also doubt you'd need SLI for this computer. 12GBs of ram might be nice, but make sure you are using a 64Bit OS, and your programs can handle that much ram. A 32bit program on a 64bit machine will still use only 4GBs of ram max. Last, I wouldn't bother with a 750W. By not going SLI you can safely use one of their 450-550W PSUs.

    Sorry, I just read where you need CUDA. Try checking with the software companies if CUDA gets a boost with SLI.
  2. The motherboard is good. If you care to have USB 3.0/SATA III support, get the Asus P6X58D Premium for $310.

    How graphics intense is the work? If it's really intense, get the best card you can. If it's only slightly intense, save yourself some cash.

    You mentioned overclocking, but didn't include an aftermarket cooler. I suggest the Coolermaster Hyper 212 for $30.
  3. Hi all -

    I don't need SATA III support and I don't think I need USB 3.0 support. The only USB devices I use are a keyboard, a mouse and flash drives - WILL I need USB 3.0 support?

    I am using Windows 7 64-bit so 12 GB should be fine. I will however stay with 6 GB for as long as possible.

    I also have my doubts about SLI. It doesn't seem to work well with CUDA code. As for Folding @ Home on GPU, two cards work but a separate client needs to be run for each card and SLI needs to be disabled...

    I personally don't need graphics power for any apps I run. I am not 100% positive I will be using CUDA but I may if the i7 can't cut it for the simulations I write.

    The GPU strength would mainly be for helping distributed computing projects that can run on GPUs, like Folding@Home.

    Gigabyte's GTX 260 for $190 or so seems like not too bad of a deal.

    Anyone's comment on anything greatly appreciated!
  4. Thanks also for the aftermarket cooler recommendation. I was looking at the Dark Knight but I will check out the Hyper 212.
  5. Motherboard: ASUS P6T LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX -$240 - I'd move up tot he V2 version of this board or the P6X58D

    RAM: G.SKILL 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 - $150 - Move up to CAS 7 for $164
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820226104

    Graphics card: GIGABYTE GV-N26SO-896I GeForce GTX 260 896MB - $205 - twin 250's in SLI is only $45 more
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card,2521-5.html

    Power Supply: CORSAIR CMPSU-750TX 750W - $110 - I like the 850 watters for twin GFX and serious OC's, just to have the extra headroom to keep voltages stable.
  6. Did we need USB 2? I have a laptop right now that only supports USB 1. Trust me, I wish it had USB 2 every time I transfer something over via a removable drive. USB 1 is SLOW to do this instead of USB2. The same might be true with USB3. As long as it won't put you overbudget I'd try to get it.

    I'd still look at your programs. If they are all 32bit then there is no need to 12GBs of ram. Your OS might be able to use lots of ram, but a 32bit program will still only handle 4GBs.

    Folding also works on AMD GPUs does it not? I don't use this program so I'm not sure how well it works. I'm not trying to hard to sway you away from Nvidia but AMD might be better. You currently can't get a DX11 card and that might matter latter. You might be best off getting a GTX260 now, and move to a DX11 Nvidia card later. If SLI seems to brake CUDA, I wouldn't try using it.
  7. I have been thinking and I'm not sure if I need SLI. Some applications I want to use (like TeraChem) only are coded for single cards anyway. I am looking right now at either a GTX 260 or a GTX 275. They both seem to be good for single card CUDA applications and folding. I agree that the GIGABYTE GTX 260 is a good deal.

    I need a NVIDIA card to use NVIDIA's Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA).

    Thanks for recommended the CAS 7 RAM; $14 is an upgrade I can make. The $310 P6X58D, however, is a lot... I personally can wait longer for my data to travel. What I mainly want is power, overclockability, stability, and a good price.

    For the Power supply - if I stuck with 6 GB of RAM and a GTX 260 or 275 (no SLI) would I ever need an 850W PSU? Would I even need a 750W?
  8. No. Even if you had 12GBs of ram you still wouldn't need that much. A single (or three in your case) sticks of ram doesn't use that much power. You would only need that much if you were going SLI. As I mentioned earlier, a Corsair 450-550W would do fine. Other good brands in that range will also work.
  9. You're wasting cash with the i7 920 and X58 mobo.

    You can get the same performance with i5 750 and LGA1156. For your computing goals, you might also want to research dual Xeon with dual GPU motherboards. That is, if you want your BOINC to really go BOINC! know what I mean?

    Here's a link that might help your decision process.

    http://einstein.phys.uwm.edu/forum_thread.php?id=7374
  10. HundredIslandBoy: Hm, what you're saying is contrary to what most other people have told me. Most users have indicated that an OC'd i5 750 definitely will not give the same performance as an OC'd i7 920.

    I overclock my i5 750 to 3.6 Ghz.
    I overclock my i7 920 to 3.6 Ghz.

    My OC'd i7 920 will give better performance. Is this not true?

    I admit, going the i5 750 route with a 1156 mobo and only 4 GB of RAM would definitely save me cash - over $200 less, most likely.

    Can anyone else comment?

    (BTW, I can't afford a dual Xeon with dual GPU mobo).
  11. It depends. For gaming, which this build is not for, the i5 would be just as good. For multi-tasking and CPU intensive work, the i7 would blow the i5 away. Hyperthreading was made for what you're doing, and the i5 doesn't have it. Don't forget that overclocking the i5 to that speed would be tough, while OCing the i7 to that would be easy.
  12. parisha said:
    HundredIslandBoy: Hm, what you're saying is contrary to what most other people have told me. Most users have indicated that an OC'd i5 750 definitely will not give the same performance as an OC'd i7 920.

    I overclock my i5 750 to 3.6 Ghz.
    I overclock my i7 920 to 3.6 Ghz.

    My OC'd i7 920 will give better performance. Is this not true?

    I admit, going the i5 750 route with a 1156 mobo and only 4 GB of RAM would definitely save me cash - over $200 less, most likely.

    Can anyone else comment?

    (BTW, I can't afford a dual Xeon with dual GPU mobo).


    Yes the OC'd 920 will beat an OC'd i5 750 but not by much. I think my point was since you are on a budget I personally don't believe the slight performance difference (perhaps 1 percent?) is worth the cost.


    On stock speeds, the i5 750 beats i7 920
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3634&p=10

    Final word, only if your apps thrive on hyperthreading, then spend the extra cash.
  13. HundredIslandsBoy, can you provide a source for the "perhaps 1 percent" performance difference? I read the Anandtech article I don't always see the i5 being that close to the i7 920.

    Cheap motherboards, less startup RAM, lower wattage and a cheaper price all do make the i5-750 attractive. The lack of hyperthreading and potentially significant performance differences make the i5-750 seem less attractive.

    The apps I write are not coded to use hyperthreading, so it won't help with them at all. From MadAdmiral's post, I'm supposing that it will help with things like BOINC.

    It seems that lots of people have i7 920's and love i7 920's. The price difference and the Anandtech article make the i5 750 seem like a viable option. The $250 less cash I spend going the i5 750 route could easily be used to get a GTX 285...

    We could talk about this for ages, I'm sure.
  14. You didn't see the benchmarks in the link where the i5 beats the i7? And in the other tests you can calculate the results and figure out the difference in percentage.

    I would look at the HD 5850 ($250) before the GTZ 285 ($375).

    Unless you need it now, I would wait a month for more reviews of the i5, especially in the forums where your apps are in use. As those users report performance results with i5, you'll have a better idea if $250 is worth the performance gain.

    But if cash burns a hole in your wallet, go for the i7.
  15. More reviews of the i5? It's been out for a while now...

    And I'm with parisha. That link's benchmarks didn't show a whole lot of what you're pointing towards. In addition, the benefits of the i7 got more pronounced as you go past the first page. The difference are only minimized in the single core tests.

    Don't forget they don't mention if turbo boost was enabled or not. If it was, and the i7 wasn't overclocked, it's not a fair comparision.

    I trust this comparision much more.
  16. I'm not saying the i5 is a better CPU. Of course the i7 is a better CPU and that's why it costs an extra $250 to go that route CPU/MOBO platform.

    If most your apps won't need hyperthreading and if you're just a gamer, and most important if you're on a budget, the i5 might be more of a practical choice.

    But if you're a pure performance enthusiast and you can't settle for 90fps (you need 95), you'll get the i7.

    My last point, I don't buy CPUs over $200. I overclock and get near the same performance and therefore increase the value of my investment.
  17. OP isn't a gamer. Enough said.
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